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Lumber liquor: Scientists unveil alcohol that’s made from trees

In the wide world of alcohol, brewers and distillers can make alcoholic beverages using everything from potatoes to grapes – so why not wood? Researchers at Japan’s Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute report that lumber-based beverages might soon be the newest member of the alcohol family. Apparently, these beverages have woody qualities that make them similar to alcohol aged in wood barrels.

To make this woody drink, the researchers pulverized wood into a creamy paste, then added yeast and an enzyme to begin the fermentation process. They are able to use different woods – such as cedar, birch, and cherry – and avoid using heat in order to preserve the flavor of each specific food. Using four kilograms of cedar wood gave them almost four liters of liquid, with an alcohol content of about 15 percent.

A similar process of wood fermentation is currently used to produce biofuel, but the final product is flavorless and contains toxins – so it’s not exactly drinkable. “But our method can make it drinkable, and with a wood flavor, because it does not require high heat or sulphuric acid to decompose the wood,” says researcher Kengo Magara.

The Forestry and Forest Products Research in Japan – a government institute – plans on commercializing the venture with a partner in the private sector and have the wood alcohol on shelves within three years.

“We thought it would be interesting to think that alcohol could be made from something around here like trees,” Magara says. “It’s a dream-inspired project.”

By Connor Ertz, Staff Writer

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